Ian Anderson ‘Thick As A Brick: Live In Iceland’ — DVD Review
Back in 1972, Jethro Tull unleashed the "mother of all concept albums" with 'Thick as a Brick,' which told the tale of a young lad called Gerald Bostock. It became a No. 1 hit, due in no small part to the momentum from their previous offering, 'Aqualung.' But it was hardly the stuff of radio-friendly singles as it was essentially one very long song, split in two parts. Unlike many other epic works of the era, there weren't even sections or, ahem, 'movements' within the piece, it was simply 'Thick as a Brick.'
In 2012, Tull leader Ian Anderson surprised fans with the announcement of a follow-up to the much-loved album. 'Thick as a Brick 2' continued to story of Gerald Bostock, finding him 40 years on, dealing with various stops and starts of life. The next logical step was for Anderson to take it on the road. In doing so he pulled together the two tales into one evening, performing the original and the sequel in one show. He took the shows across the world and now, in 2014, has released a wonderful document of the tour.
Released by Eagle Rock Entertainment, 'Thick As A Brick: Live In Iceland' captures Anderson and his ace band in fine form. The audio and video is almost startlingly sharp. Unlike live concert films of old, this looks and sounds like you are right there in the theater. Its digital clarity for eyes and ears is almost a bit disorienting at times. It was mixed to both stereo and 5.1 surround sound.
The precision on the technical side of things is matched by the proficiency of Anderson and band. They nail every note and nuance along the way. The entire show is entertaining and never without humor. At one moment, Anderson receives a phone call on stage from his violinist. He instructs to call back on Skype, and soon, she appears on the screen above the band playing her part. The multimedia aspect of the show is done tastefully and helps the story along.
Anderson is lent a hand throughout by vocalist/dancer Ryan O' Donnel, who takes on various lines, in the role of actor, to add depth to the Bostock character. One album after the other, the band tackle not only the involved concept, but the equally complex musical route upon which the story is built. Drummer Scott Hammond, guitarist Florian Opahle, bassist David Goodier and keyboardist John O' Hara may not be Jethro Tull, but they certainly capture the style and do justice to the old, and new material. There are bits of choreography, and on-screen enhancements (credited as 'Tull-O-Vision') to the story that work seamlessly throughout. Despite the 40-year separation between works, the two albums are tied together perfectly here. Anderson is well aware of the pitfalls of such mammoth concepts and is always quick to toss humor into the mix .
"As a bit of a parody of prog-rock concept-album genre, I thought it'd be fun to join that particular bandwagon, that particular new direction in music, but to do it in a kinda humorous way, kind of a parody," Anderson explains in the bonus interview on the DVD. "But parody, as I'm sure most people appreciate, parody is often the comedic mask, the mask of humor you place over sometimes serious subjects -- a way of bringing people into something with a smile. But once you've got them, you show them the dark, scary interior. I think, in a way, 'Thick As A Brick' was that. It was meant to be lighthearted, a parody, a fiction, a surreal look at the work of a little school boy who was precocious."
'Live In Iceland' is also available on Blu-ray and as a two-CD set. The DVD has a few nice bonus features including the aforementioned interview with Anderson as well as a few songs recorded 'Live At Montreaux.' There is also a very cool clip of Anderson, and Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobs on harmonica, jamming together at the 2012 festival side stage. Nobs, or 'Funky Claude' as he was immortalized in Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water,' passed away in early 2013,